Meet Anti-Racism Writer Clay Rivers
And learn how he's fighting racism by focusing on what we have in common
Clay Rivers is one of the many anti-racism writers I first met on Medium. Over the months, we’ve had some conversations on Twitter, and I’ve read more of his work on the Our Human Family website. I’m delighted to be able to introduce his work to those of you who haven’t seen it yet. Please meet Clay.
Clay, what made you become an anti-racism writer?
Writing about anti-racism is something I fell into. I won writing competitions in high school; one for a local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. This was in the South, back in the day, so you can imagine their surprise when a four-foot-tall Black teenager and his parents showed up to claim his award.
I’ve always written in one form or another. For years, I wrote only for personal expression. Having worked as an art director, creating tag lines and the like came easily to me. And for several years, screenwriting became my primary focus. “Hello, Franklin Leonard!”
It wasn’t until four or five years ago when a Medium piece of mine (“How I Talk to White People About Racism”) blew up and was published by The New York Times that it dawned on me that people were interested in my thoughts on racism.
What response have you had?
Very positive, considering there are folks out there with far more academic knowledge about racism. Not having written about racism or related issues before “How I Talk,” I figured the piece’s popularity was a fluke. When delving into other topics, readers’ responses proved tepid, at best. But when I write about racism from the perspective of a forty-eight-inch tall Black man who is Christian and gay, people find value in my writing. Maybe there’s something to this thing called “lived experience.”
Tell us about the online publication you edit, OHF Weekly.
OHF Weekly is our weekly journal whose mission is to dispel the lie of race by sharing personal narratives that showcase the depth and breadth of humanity. OHF Weekly was founded on three core tenets.
First, as Maya Angelou wrote, “We are more alike, my friends than we are unalike.” Standing forty-eight inches tall separates me in appearance from ninety-nine percent of the population. I learned early on that I always shared common interests or traits with people, despite that physical distinction.
Second, I know that people can change. Growing up in the South provided me with the equivalent of a graduate-level degree in understanding the racist ways of white people. I’ve encountered more than my share of good ol’ boys, bubbahs, southern belles, and self-professed products of racist parenting. But over a fifteen-year period, I witnessed people make the jump from racist, homophobic progeny to inclusive and compassionate human beings.
Third, and probably the most crucial tenet, is the shortest, Jesus’ command to “Love one another.” His is a proactive and authentic love, that is neither self-serving, conditional, nor politically motivated.
OHF Weekly’s all about showing people we’re just a big interconnected human family.
What’s next? An exciting line of products to help people serve as allies in their personal and professional lives.
Last year, you edited and published Fieldnotes on Allyship. Please tell us about that project.
Oh, you’re good! (Laughs.) I didn’t know we were going there, but I’m glad you did! When you consider the tenets I mentioned earlier, it’s only natural that I would initiate and publish Fieldnotes on Allyship as a direct response to the murder of George Floyd.
Elevator pitch: Fieldnotes on Allyship is a tool to educate, prepare, and encourage people for service as an ally, right where they are.
Key topics: The history of racism in America, the effects of racism, preparing oneself to serve as an ally, and serving as an impactful ally.
Why it’s needed: Who can forget the hundreds of thousands of people who protested the brutality of Mr. Floyd’s murder. Lots of people want to advocate for racial equality, but they’re either not going to demonstrate, don’t know what their activism should look like, or they’re going about it the wrong way.
Response: The response has been overwhelming. People are surprised by its accessibility—it’s not scholarly, its candidness, its humanity, its truth, and empowering nature.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
While the nation has come a long way in modifying its expression of racism, we have oh, so far to go. If America would give a concerted effort to make good on its promises of liberty and justice for all, and not all of one kind, America would be well on the way to becoming an anti-racist nation. The optimist in me believes that an anti-racist future is possible, but the realist in me believes if the current state of our union is any indication—this country has a long, long road ahead with a lot of work to do.
What are your top three anti-racism articles you have written?
“How I Talk to White People About Racism” — because it lays a foundation for understanding the prerequisites for meaningful conversations about racism.
“The Simplicity of Equality” — this article says, This racism thing ain’t rocket science, folks. Together we can handle this.
“The Two Steps to Getting Someone on the Anti-Racism Express” — this article identifies the people we're most likely to have the most significant impact upon, the prerequisites to that happening, and sets realistic expectations.
Share one anti-racism article you've read written by someone else that resonated with you.
“When You've Been White Too Long” by William Spivey. Dr. Spivey, as I call him, is prolific. His writing makes history and current events not only accessible, but his Martini-dry wit makes his articles entertaining.
Sharon, thank you for your interest and the opportunity to be interviewed. It’s been an absolute honor and a pleasure.
Clay, the pleasure is mine. :)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed learning more about Clay. If you want to keep up with Clay’s work, read and subscribe on Our Human Family Weekly, or connect with him on Twitter.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
I am an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.
Dear Mr Rivers, I think how the deck is stacked really a matter of perspective.Your perspective to make good of any bad situation, despite the perseverance, it truly inspiring. Despite being white, I am beginning to understand the problems Black people face. From my outsider vantage point, I see all the false assumption made about you, such as Black people are of subintelligent, lazy, and violent. Unfortunately, until recently I bought into those assumption. With the help of the likes of you, I am beginning to understand blacks as I had never done before. I am fairly open minded and love to learn new perspectives. I use cognitive dissonance to my advantage. Instead of using that phenomena to deny there is a problem- I used it as a reason to reflect on my own beliefs- and if found wanting an opportunity to change
In my book you are an inspiration to all struggling on race relations. It is very comforting to know that my racist view can change into a compassionate one, with the help of people like you.
Dear Ms Hurley- Hall, man, you sure know how to pick 'em. Clay Rivers is certainly a rare gem. I see from his work, we share similar thoughts. His basic tenant of his newsletter and discussing racism. First treat each person with respect- don't hate the messages, hate the message. Secondly, echoing Maya Anglou poem- we should concentrate on our similarities and not on our differences. We all have the ability to change, but we have to want to change. We cannot be intolerant and must be open to different perspectives. Only then can racists change into compassionate caring people. Finally, we must love our neighbor and have the ability to forgive.
You have to admire Clay River if not for what he is accomplishments, for the courage and persistence he had to use to prevail. The deck could not have been stacked more against him, his blackness, his extremely short stature, and being gay on top of that, it's a miracle he is where he is today. His conviction is beyond belief. It's no wonder the members of the Daughteqrs of the American Revolution gasped in astonishment at the sight of a little black boy being awarded a sign of accomplishment.